Chelsea beat a well-organised Middlebrough 1-0 on Sunday night to go top of the Premier League table, and the Blues’ boss was quick to heap praise on his charges after the game.
Chelsea travelled to the Riverside Stadium on Sunday night with the opportunity to go top of the table with a win over Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough. And it was Diego Costa who came to the party once again for the Blues as the Spain international notched up his tenth league goal of the season.
The hosts started the game strongly, Gaston Ramirez and Adama Traore in particular troubled the Chelsea defence on two occasions but failed to create a definitive chance on goal. Chelsea, though, braved the initial storm to fight on and create the better of the chances in the first half, with Pedro’s 28th minute strike sensationally saved by his former Barcelona teammate Victor Valdes.
As the first half neared its end, though, the visitors were finally rewarded for their persistence in attack. The till-then well-organized Middlesbrough defence seemed to go to sleep, as the opportunistic Costa latched on to a stray ball to score the first and only goal of the match.
Post the match, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was quick to praise the players, lauding his side’s determination to put the game to bed throughout an edgy second half. The Italian, though, reserved special mention for three of his players – Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta and of course, Diego Costa.
Hailing the ‘Premier League Player of the Month for October’ Hazard as a “complete player”, Conte remarked about the Belgian’s decisiveness in the game. As reported by Goal, he said: “You can see Eden is always involved in the game, not calm and off during the game. He always stays in the game and he’s always a point of reference for his team-mates.”
He continued: “I’m seeing a lot of positive things for Eden, with the ball and without. It’s important, because to be a complete player you must perform in both phases, with the ball and without the ball. It’s important.”
Cesar Azpilicueta is one player who has seldom played in his usual position as an attacking right back for Chelsea. First he played as a defensive left back and now as one of the three centre backs in Conte’s 3-4-3. And Conte believes that his current position is the perfect role for the Spaniard.
As per Guardian, Conte said: “Azpi is a fantastic player. Because he can play different roles. But I think the role that he’s playing now is perfect for him.He’s playing very well, because he’s fast, he has good technique, good positioning. He’s a clever player. He can play in different roles, but this role I think is perfect for him.”
Finally, Conte regarded his star striker Diego Costa as a player who is an “example for all”. Costa is enjoying a resurgence since the start of this season, a return to form that has seen him net ten league goals so far this season, two clear of nearest rival Sergio Aguero. As per OptaJoe, Costa has now been involved in the most goals in the Premier League this season:
13 – Diego Costa has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this season (13, 10 goals and three assists). Form.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 20, 2016
As reported by Reuters, the Chelsea boss told the British media: “He’s an example for all. If he continues to score, I’ll be very happy. But I’ll be happier to see this commitment, this work rate during training and in games. It’s fantastic, I think, that Diego is improving a lot in a lot of aspects. For me, now, Diego is one of the best strikers in the world. He must continue that, working in this way, with his commitment and work rate.”
Sunday’s result means that Chelsea have now won half a dozen games in a row since the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal two months ago, having not conceded even once in the period. This is also the first time in seven years when the Blues have won six on the bounce, and the first time in nine years when they’ve kept six straight clean sheets.
Chelsea now have 28 points from 12 games this season, a stark contrast from last season when they had just 11 points from as many games and lay periliously close to the relegation zone at 16th place. As Tottenham Hotspur come visiting next week, a seventh win in a row will well and truly prove their title challenging mettle, and show that Antonio Conte has turned the tide at Stamford Bridge.